Getting My Feet Wet: The Water’s Not So Bad
Today at work during lunch, I had a bit of a breakthrough. I was talking to a colleague about Donald Trump, and as usual, (most of the teachers that I work with are left-leaning and against Donald Trump on principle) he had nothing but disparaging things to say about Trump. Now, I am not a Trump supporter, but I don’t hate him and I don’t really have strong feelings about him either way. Usually when the subject comes up I stay silent, but today, I expressed my opinion, and the world didn’t end!
Joking aside, it was an empowering experience. My colleague actually listened to what I had to say. Aside from my students, I’m not used to people listening to me at work. I’m always afraid that I will offend people or be unable to argue effectively, so I rarely get the opportunity to speak my mind in conversations that take place in the break room. It was a great feeling to be heard and to have my opinion respected. My colleague actually pointed out some good things he had heard Trump say, and we both seemed to get something positive out of our exchange although neither of us felt strongly about the issue. Regardless, it was a great learning opportunity for me to see that sharing my opinion doesn’t have to be all that scary, and that I get a lot more out of conversations when I am exchanging ideas rather than just listening and taking other people’s opinions in.
So far in this endeavor, I have discovered that taking action is rewarding. I may not always get the result I want, but more often than not, I learn something new not just about myself, but about issues that are important to me. Every time I follow through on a commitment I’ve made to myself, I feel more confident and my self esteem increases. I send myself a message that I matter and that I genuinely care about my well being, so the aspects of myself that are still in the shadows witness behaviors that affirm self love, and I think it is easier for me to trust myself and my decisions. Each time I stick my neck out and do something uncharacteristic, I find that my life is much richer and better, and I am motivated to do more and be more.
After my discussion about Donald Trump, some other teachers came in and the topic shifted to the Orlando massacre. One of the teachers, who’s from Australia, argued that stricter gun control was the answer. I had heard this argument before, but usually from the stand point of people who fear guns and talk about them as if they are some kind of mythical invention that cause people to commit mass murder. However, my Australian colleague had a really great argument for gun control. He used his country as an example. I learned a lot about how gun control could work, and it made me curious to learn more. I wonder what would have happened if I had reacted as I usually do and just nodded and agreed rather than challenge his claim. Would I have learned so much? I don’t think so.
Conversing with my colleagues today, I learned three valuable things. I learned that I can hold my own in a discussion, and that I get a lot more out of conversations when I’m not worried about what the other person thinks or trying to be agreeable at all costs. More importantly, I learned that I care about myself and my opinions enough to let them be heard, and that when I speak people listen. It’s a great feeling, and one I will take with me as I continue to participate more fully in my life.